Chris Lange, FISM News
Russia on Tuesday denied accusations made by Moldovan President Maia Sandu that it has been plotting to overthrow her government, calling the claims an attempt to divert attention away from the former Soviet republic’s own domestic problems.
Sandu announced on Monday that Moldovan authorities had uncovered an alleged plot by Russia to attack government buildings, take hostages, and commit other acts of violence in an effort to topple her government to prevent it from joining the European Union. The next day, Moldova temporarily closed its airspace after a balloon-like object was spotted in its skies next to Ukraine, according to Reuters.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the claims as “absolutely unfounded and unsubstantiated.”
“They are built in the spirit of classical techniques that are often used by the United States, other Western countries and Ukraine,” Zakharova said. “First, accusations are made with reference to purportedly classified intelligence information that cannot be verified, and then they are used to justify their own illegal actions.”
She asserted that Moldovan authorities were perpetuating “the myth about a Russian threat to distract Moldovan citizens’ attention from internal problems resulting from a disastrous social-economic course of the current administration and to step up the fight against dissent and political opponents.”
Zakharova added that Russia poses no threat to Moldova and hopes to develop mutually beneficial cooperation.
Sandu’s accusation came a week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country had intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destroy Moldova, intelligence that was later confirmed by Moldovan officials.
In December, Moldova’s national intelligence agency said that Russia likely wanted to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova’s Kremlin-backed breakaway region of Transnistria. Transnistria lies across the Dniester River on the country’s eastern border with Ukraine. While it is officially an unrecognized state, Transnistria is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova.
Moldova has sought to strengthen ties with its Western partners in the face of Russian aggression. The country, which has a population of more than 2.5 million, was granted EU membership candidate status last June.
RUSSIA CLAIMS GAINS IN EASTERN UKRAINE
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its forces broke through two of Ukraine’s defensive lines in the eastern Luhansk region and pushed Ukrainian troops back about two miles, forcing them to abandon military equipment as well as their dead, according to The Associated Press. Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment.
Luhansk regional Gov. Serhii Haidai said that the number of Russian ground and air attacks is “growing every day” in remarks carried by Ukrainian TV.
“The Russians were able to transfer new forces for the offensive and now they are trying to overwhelm us with sheer human mass,” he said.
Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said that at least 12 residential buildings were damaged Wednesday in the face of “nonstop” fire from multiple rocket launchers.
Donetsk and Luhansk comprise the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, which is largely controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists. The intensifying attacks are widely believed to be part of a new Russian offensive aimed at securing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions the Kremlin illegally annexed last September.
RUSSIAN JOURNALIST IMPRISONED FOR CRITICAL REPORTING
A Russian journalist was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on Wednesday for accusing the Russian air force of bombing a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol last April where women and children were sheltering.
Moments before her sentencing in the Lenin district court in Siberia, a defiant Maria Ponomarenko declared: “Patriotism is love for the motherland, and love for one’s motherland should not be expressed by encouraging crime,” according to the RusNews outlet where she formerly worked, per Reuters.
“Attacking your neighbor is a crime. If it is a war — then call it a war,” Ponomarenko continued, referring to a Russian law banning citizens from using the term to describe its “special military operation” in Ukraine. “This is a state crime against the army — it is like spitting on the graves of veterans.”
Ponomarenko was found guilty of allegedly creating “fake” social media posts to discredit Russia’s military after she reported on the Mariupol bombing and evidence of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. She was arrested in St. Petersburg in April and sent to a psychiatric facility in Siberia.
The Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theatre in Mariupol was destroyed by a Russian airstrike on March 16, despite the fact that huge signs had been painted next to the building indicating that children were inside. Ukrainian officials said that at least 300 civilians died in the attack. The decimated southern port city was also the site of shocking evidence of mass torture and summary executions of Ukrainian civilians.
Russia claimed that the theater was blown up by Ukrainian nationalists.